Superb picture at a great price
Outstanding picture quality, built-in SD card reader, Internet ready
Menus are a little slow to appear on screen
The Bottom Line:
If you desire a Plasma TV I don't think this one can be beat for the price.
In our quest to replace our aging Sony 32” Trinitron TV, we decided on getting a plasma over both LCD and LED. It’s a personal choice, all are good, except to our eyes the Plasma has a more natural picture. The LCD, or LED displays produce an image by back lighting. The Plasma types have light sensitive phorphors on the back of a glass screen. These illuminate themselves by an electronic pulse, similar to the now extinct Cathode Ray Tube type sets. We liked the natural look this produces. In addition Plasma’s have a higher refresh rate, meaning the picture updates, or refreshes itself, more frequently than either LCD or LED TV’s.
So now to chose a brand and size. It turns out that because today’s market is geared mainly to the other two types, Plasma TV’s are harder to find. A rather big bonus is, because of the market shift, Plasma TV’s have dropped dramatically in price. Good for us as we found some incredible deals on the only brand that stores seemed to stock, Panasonic.
720p or 1080p?
At first I had no idea what these specifications meant, but found out that the higher number means more pixels on the screen, hence a more detailed picture. We physically observed both resolutions on similar sets side by side and the difference on a 50” set is significant. With the lower resolution 720p display you could actually see the individual pixels when up close, not so with the 1080p display. Our final choice thus became the Panasonic 50” Plasma TC-P50S30 which has 1080p resolution.
The set is heavier than the LCD types, having a 50” display ours weighed about 70 pounds. The chassis however is suprisingly thin, much thinner than the older gererations of flat screen Plasma TV's. Panasonic supplies a self supporting stand, however we opted for an after market wall mount. This TV, as with most other flat screens, has a universal bolt pattern on the back side for this purpose. Hookup was easy, in our case cable, and the set up directions clear. The supplied manual is well written and answered all of our questions. The remote is straight forward and after installing the supplied batteries the set powered up. The first screen is a default initial setup with prompts to walk you through the basic settings, like auto channel search, time, date, etc. Very simple. Once completed our cable channels became available, and WOW, what a beautiful picture. Sound quality was also quite acceptable, in fact it was quite good with 10 watts per speaker adjustable to taste.
HD or Analog channels
This is an HD set and will automatically display HD channels in any resolution that the cable or satellite company provides. Most are either 720p or 1080i. It does this magnificently, however it also does a great job with the older analog channels. Blu-Ray resolution at 1080p is breath taking! We also have an old VHS hooked up to the provided composite jacks, and while not HD, it sure looks great on the big 50 inch screen.
There are several factory settings for picture display from a rather bland “natural” to an over bright “vivid” with ”Cinema” and “Game” modes falling somewhere in between. There is also a “custom” setting, which allows simple adjustments for a picture to your liking. We found the Custom mode best, producing a stunning, yet natural picture. Blacks are BLACK and colors true. Aspect ratio is also selectable, including the old 4 x 3. There are 3 HDMI jacks, one of which is ARC. That means when connected to a compatible device the TV controls other features such as power, volume, etc. We used this for our Panasonic Home theater system which operates seamlessly with the TV remote. We also use another of the HDMI jacks for our Panasonic Blu-Ray player. I presume these will work well with other brands, but by keeping all of the peripherals the same brand it greatly reduces the number of remotes.
SD card reader
Specific to Panasonic brands is the built in SD card reader. This is one really nice feature! Inserting our camera cards brings up the photos instantly and can be viewed individually or as a slide show with the built in viewer. At Christmas I preloaded a spare SD card with a thousand or so images from Christmas’s past and set the slide show to entertain family, wonderful feature. Videos on SD cards also work, so inserting a video camera card auto plays as well.
Our set also has built in Internet Apps for Face Book, Net-Flix, and many others. It does not however have Wi-Fi built in, so a direct wired connection to a router is needed for internet access. A Wi-Fi adapter can however be used with one of the TV’s two USB 2 ports. Our Panasonic Blu-Ray player already had Wi-Fi so we simply use it for streaming movies, which we do almost every night.
There are no RCA type audio output jacks. This could pose a problem if you want to use older home theater or other audio amplifiers. The set does have an optical output however for connection to newer audio equipment. We chose to add a Panasonic home theater audio system which connects via the TV’s HDMI-ARC port.
All in all we are extremely satisfied with this TV. The picture quality is second to none and the set performs beautifully! The only negative I have is the Panasonic remote is a little awkward for some features, personally I prefer the Sony remotes better. The other thing is the TV’s menus come up after a short delay. I researched this and found it to be just a “normal” idiosyncrasy of this series. Neither grip is a deal breaker by any means, just tweaks that I wish Panasonic had addressed. In any event the price certainly allows for a few minor things like these. The picture is tops, and after all that is the core reason for a TV anyways. If you buy one, you won’t regret it!